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Prop Joe

January 22, 2013

Robert Chew, who played Proposition Joe on The Wire, has passed on at the far too young age of 52. And, reading his obituary, one sees that he was actually from Baltimore, not one of those British dudes playing a role (Idris Elba and Dominic West, I’m looking at y’all).

Robert F. Chew, an actor best known for his roles in gritty HBO dramas like “The Corner” and “The Wire,” died on Thursday at his home in Baltimore. He was 52. The cause was a heart attack, said his sister, Clarice Chew. Mr. Chew was a well-regarded stage actor when he began appearing in television shows created by or based on the work of David Simon and Edward Burns. He played a shoe salesman on “The Corner” and the drug supplier Wilkie Collins on the NBC drama “Homicide: Life on the Street.”

As Proposition Joe Stewart, the portly, deeply connected and relatively civil drug kingpin on “The Wire,” he preferred to broker deals between rival drug factions rather than resort to violence. “We were looking for somebody that was sensible and even paternal, as almost a foil to the rest of the brutality and ambition that you were seeing in that underground economy,” Mr. Simon said on Friday. “So you needed him to be incredibly human, funny, connected to whoever’s in the room, and yet he’s a gangster.”

He recalled one scene in which Mr. Chew used four different voices while calling a telephone number that turns out to be that of Baltimore’s homicide unit. “He becomes four different characters before your eyes,” Mr. Simon said. “It was a soliloquy of pure acting.”

Robert Francell Chew was born on Dec. 28, 1960, in Baltimore. He graduated from Patterson Park High School and then studied music at Morgan State University.

Pour one out.

One Comment leave one →
  1. JCo permalink
    January 28, 2013 5:18 pm


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